My half-open eyes see a cathedral in the darkness of my bedroom before I realize I am home. I hear the first notes of birdsong as the light peaks over the horizon and I float with them across the ocean to another land I also call home. What was familiar seems out of place and old routines lie in a jumble on the floor. In my first week home I lost cash, my spare prescription glasses, and my patience while driving. One of the few things that feels grounding is returning to lap swimming. Somehow the fluidity of water settles me. Crossing the threshold home after Sojourning with Grief has brought me into an old place with new eyes. The familiar is now unfamiliar. I am disoriented.
Once, when I had a yard, I bought a packet of wildflower seeds, a mix where you scatter them and wait to see what arises from the earth. Poppies, coreopsis, wallflowers, alyssum, phlox, flax…whatever would take hold. And in my garden I had plants I set into the soil with specific intention. Roses, daffodils, lavender. This sojourn has been a scattering of seeds and in the center was the planting of one intention-to return some of my mother’s cremains to the land of her birth. Last week in the company of her two remaining cousins, I offered her back to the land. My mother-a beautiful English rose.
“What can you teach me?” I ask this question to the rocks and stones I meet on my sojourn. To hear even the faintest reply I must slow my inner clock to ancient time. To liminal time. For the souls that reside in the salt-and-pepper speckled gneiss, the chalkboard black slate, the meringue layers of limestone, and pigeon grays of common igneous hued surfaces I tread on, caress, sit and lean upon speak an unfamiliar language. I have felt an intimate connection with rock and stone during this sojourn. In the wild places, I place my hand against a rock face and wait. Sometimes the warmth of sun fills my palm, or the cool of shadow absorbs into my skin. Rough edges prod my fingertips to ask deeper questions. “What edges of yours need smoothing?” Or “Are those rough edges part of a wildness you need to keep?” Many of the rocks have facial features, as if they are trying to communicate in way we can understand if only we would stand still for a moment longer.
The sojourn has officially begun…sweetly and with whimsy. And with yet a reminder to let go and hold things loosely. When I did my 24 hour pre-check in, my flight no longer existed! Calls to Alaska Airline (I was using miles and going through one of their partners-Icelandic Air) had them searching for answers. I must say I had the BEST customer service, but no answers, and only an old confirmation number and phone numbers to call. All roads finally led to Delta Airlines, where my flight had been rerouted to Amsterdam. Pre-check-in was not available and I would be leaving two and a half hours earlier, but other than that, no major issues. I would just have to check in the old fashioned way: at the airport counter.
Surrender. Trust. Two words loaded with meaning that based on personal experience can trigger the gamut from deep resistance to relief. In the ebb and flow of my own life I have been able to surrender and trust less often with grace than with a dirty stare and a “I don’t think so…I’ve got this covered” stance.
It might reach 65º in Portland today. Seriously. This is November. Skies are blue, air is warm. If it wasn’t for the bare trees and rotting tomatoes left on the vine, I might be fooled into thinking I had fallen asleep for six months and woken to spring. That and a self-imposed deadline circled on the calendar at the end of the month.
I find a deep spiritual connection when I am at the beach. I walk along the coastline as the tide flows in and out. The waves seem to chase each other back and forth—some racing toward me, while others recede into the background. Since I’m not a tidal expert, without looking at the longer shoreline, I can’t tell right away if it is high or low tide, if the beach is being revealed or masked. When I am in the midst of those waves grabbing at my ankles all I can see is the present moment. Feel the water swirling around me-the warmth of water kissed by summer sun or the cold Pacific undercurrent.
Funny how old memories will resurface at unexpected times. Maybe it is the sweetness of the blackberries this summer that stirred my recollection of these unfolding memories two years ago. Spring of 2014 blossomed into a summer of unanticipated challenges.
On of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is OnBeing with host Krista Tippett. On their website it says it is a “public radio conversation” as well as “publisher and public event convener.” Speakers explore the question of “what it means to be human and how do we want to live.” The website goes on the say: “We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.”